Indian donors come together to scale social impact

Washington Bangla Radio
Friday, June 17, 2011

Mumbai, June 17 (IBNS) Leading institutional, individual and corporate donors met at a confluence in Mumbai to take the first step towards forming a network by donors for donors.

The Philanthropy Leadership Confluence (PLC), organised by the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy (CAP) and Samhita brought together a diverse set of individual donors, Indian and international foundations, sector intermediaries as well as social investors to debate and discuss how donors can collaborate to ensure that their funding creates the greatest social impact.

“It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place . Today, India has more HNI’s than ever before. But, are they giving or giving enough of their wealth?

"And, if not why? What are the barriers to giving? What are the challenges to giving? How can giving be made more effective?” says Noshir H. Dadrawala, Chief Executive of CAP.

He expressed the need for better synergy among those in the ‘giving’ space in order to leverage impact and the need to share knowledge & learning – ‘what has worked and what has not worked so that the same mistakes are not repeated again and again.’

“Collaboration is essential to assemble the resources, expertise and influence required to solve problems as complex and critical as hunger, climate change and economic development.

"There is clear evidence that donors working together can create much more impact than the sum of their individual efforts says Priya Naik, CEO of Samhita.

“Our society rests on three pillars – Sarkaar (Government), Samaaj (civil society) and Bazaar (market forces). Since independence, we have seen several instances of the Samaaj suffering when either the Sarkaar or the Bazaar dominate.  Philanthropy has a critical role to play in filling the gaps that the Sarkaar or the Bazaar cannot plug so that Samaaj can thrive,” says Rohini Nilekani, the Founder Chairperson of Arghyam and Pratham Books.

Examples of donors network are aplenty in the US and EU countries. The idea of forming a similar network in India, has been a point of discussion for decades now. PLC is a step in this direction.

“There are 80,000 private foundations in the US with annual grants of over 38.5 billion dollars. There are 110,000 public benefit foundations in 27 EU states with an estimated 153 billion euros in grant-making and expenditure. Support networks are essential to assist these foundations to be more impactful.” says Ms. Paula Johnson, the Vice President of The Philanthropic Initiative, while sharing her insight on global trends in philanthropic giving and networking.

“Worldwide Initiative for Grant-makers Support reported 200 foundations in India and grantmaking in India is about 5-7 billion  US dollars. The time is right for India to have a network that can support the work of donors and assist the new philanthropists,” Johnson added.

Johnson has played a key role in forming and advising similar networks worldwide and has offered to help the PLC define its mandate and activities.

“The world is moving towards co-creation and it plays a critical role in networks like these. Collaboration between individual donors, institutional donors and non-governmental organizations can help leverage shared resources and knowledge resulting in more powerful and sustained social impact,” says Vijay Mahajan, Chairman, BASIX and President, Micro Finance Institutions Network. The Micro Finance Institutions Network is an entity that plays a similar role in the micro finance sector.

The Confluence was an exercise to seek recommendations from a diverse set of donors and sector intermediaries on the goals and activities of the network and an invitation to help them co-create the network.

An informal task force has been formed to provide donors with information about each other’s work, engage and educate new philanthropists, build the capacity of institutional donors and their staff, lobby for more enabling law and policies for the social sector, facilitate collaboration and co-investment and build consensus around common standards of measuring the impact created by non-governmental organizations.

“Having a donor network seems like an idea whose time has come”, says Dadrawala. The confluence not only had the right mix of stakeholders in the grant-making space but also people who displayed a high degree of engagement and commitment.